Chivas USA concluded their history in 2014 with another season that was, broadly speaking, unsuccessful. Failing to make the playoffs for the fifth straight season, losing in their first U.S. Open Cup game, the Goats failed to reach double-digits for wins and their final season won't be looked back on by neutrals as any sort of vintage campaign.
However, the team had a bonafide breakout star in 2014, forward Erick Torres, and for the first time since 2009 finished off the bottom of the Western Conference. They also had their longest winning streak since 2008, and won for the first time in October since 2010.
But beyond all that, what was the flow of 2014? Unlike other recent seasons, when the team was typically just poor, there were some real ups and downs this year. Let's take a look at the roller-coaster that was 2014:
March-April: Feeling the new season out
After winning the season debut against the Chicago Fire and notching a gritty draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps while playing down a man for most of the game, it looked like Chivas might really turn the corner and have a good season.
But then...they went L-D-L-D-L-L-L their next seven games, into the start of May. The fact that they got results in four of their first six games is good, but as you see losses and draws alternate before simply giving way to losses, the initial optimism began to fade.
May-World Cup break: Still treading water, really
After losing their first game in May, the Goats got their first win since that season opener in the next game, against the Colorado Rapids in wintry conditions. Marvin Chavez's brace off the bench was a dream debut, and represented his high point in the season, frankly.
After that win, Chivas picked up two draws in their next five games, including a 1-1 result against the LA Galaxy. But they lost a pair of league games and perhaps less-covered but more painfully, crashed out of the U.S. Open Cup against NASL side Carolina RailHawks after a marathon session of penalties. A win and two draws in their last six games before and during MLS' break during the World Cup group stage showed they weren't dead meat, but it wasn't shaping up to be a playoff-contending or indeed, trophy-winning season.
Post-World Cup break-July 12: Halcyon days
And then CUSA returned from the World Cup break in MLS play, and blossomed into a winning team, racking up four league wins in a row and reviving hopes that somehow, just maybe, this was a team ready to compete for the playoff places after all. Helping the good vibes was Cubo's scoring streak, as he carried over the goal scored in the draw against the Galaxy, scoring in five straight (eventually six in a row), and had the winning goal in each of the games during the streak. And on top of that, Chivas USA kept clean sheets in three of those four games.
In hindsight, it seems a little cruel that the four games in the winning streak came within 14 days, but maybe that compressed schedule was a secret to their success?
July 20-Sept. 27: The longest decline
Never content to simply break a winning streak, Chivas set out to really wreck all of the good deeds done coming out of the World Cup break, as they lost 11 of their next 12 games, and only managed one point in that horrid stretch. Instead of seeing a bad team finally turn the corner and go on their way to maybe approach good again at some point, they reverted to their worst form in recent years, with a seven-game losing streak that matched their worst runs in 2013 and 2012, and is tied for worst MLS regular season losing streak in team history.
It must be said that conditions most likely weren't helped with the uncertainty surrounding the future of the club, with reports emerging publicly on Sept. 12 that the team was likely to go on hiatus and/or fold after the current season. The Goats had three of their losses on that seven-game streak after word dropped, and they gave up 11 goals and only scored two in those three games. Given everything that was happening, this was clearly the lowest point of the actual season.
October: Ending on a high note
Ok, so entering the final month of the season, Chivas USA were completely written off, demoralized, in terrible form and expected to be the worst team in MLS come season's end. Is that how the team closed out their history?
Actually, no. They had perhaps their biggest upset of the season with their second win of the year over Real Salt Lake, despite being totally outplayed, then got two more wins in their final three games, including a win in the "series finale" against the San Jose Earthquakes, the day before the team was shut down permanently.
Although the legacy of Chivas USA's 2014 season will always be a weird one, since there's literally no future for the team, nothing to build upon, as it will all be torn down, capping the season off with three wins in the final four games improved spirits and boosted morale among a battered group of players and fans alike to end a largely-miserable existence.
As I noted at the top, 2014 won't be a vintage year, but the blips of success in July and October will salve some of the wounds that came with the club's demise and consistently poor play. And that has to mean something in the grand scheme of things.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!